Interview with Kristina Okan

Tell us why was it so important for you to join this volunteer project in Africa?

 

I have been dreaming of joining the project literally since I saw the post about the organisation Missia Sodeistviia (Assistance Mission) on Instagram. I have an amazing experience of working on an art project with refugee kids (from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Chechen Republic) in Berlin for 2 years, and the impact it made on me is immeasurable. I felt like I accumulated some knowledge, skills and practices that might be very useful. And, the chance to go on a short stay as a missionary to Kenya just came to me at the right time in the right place.

 

What are the main goals of the organisation you worked for?

 

Assistance Mission is a global non denominational missionary organisation that saves, feeds, cures people, finds sponsors for children from slums and families in need in Dunga and Kapuothe region near Kisumu. The main thing that unites all the people in the community created by the Mission is the faith in God, and thus, the church is the place where everyone in need can find support, help, remedies, food, whatever else is needed.

 

The Mission cares about every person who comes for help. It is really incredible! The Mission runs several great projects. One of them is art classes for children from slums. This is the project I fell in love with from the first sight and as a result joined it as soon as I could and even inspired my husband to go with me.

What was your timetable there? And what were your main tasks?

 

We were able to organise our schedules by ourselves, focusing on devoting time to the art classes and other activities we did. The most important thing there was to join the breakfast at 9 am, because this was the only time of the day when missionaries gather all together to discuss the plans for the day, ask any questions, and just to see each other and wish a good day. After that everyone was busy with their own projects and tasks.

 

I was in charge of the art classes during our stay. Four times a week there were art activities for children where we painted and did crafts. Another project we did with my husband was book reading sessions for the children in the orphanage Daddy's Home, founded by the Mission. Every day we came to read books before children went to bed. It was a truly fantastic experience that I will never forget. Also, in our free time we used to come to the orphanage just to play and do crafts related to the books we read. It was an amazing time! Also, my husband was a photographer at the Mission for the month we stayed. So, he documented events and ministries at the church. Besides working activities, we had 2 days off every week, when we could go for small trips, discover beautiful locations of Kenya and refill our energy.

Tell us about the best moments you had while working there.

 

I really enjoyed so much every single moment at the Mission, so I struggle to name what was the best. Of course, first of all, to see the happiness and joy that children could get thanks to the time we spent with them. Secondly, the way Kenyans celebrate life and praise God, with dancing and singing, is one of the strongest and the greatest impressions I got. The way they move and feel the rhythm is just astonishing. Also, time spent with missionaries who became our friends is one of the best memories. People there create some miracles and it was very precious to be able to learn from them.

 

What is the atmosphere like?

 

As I mentioned above, being surrounded by people who make miracles, is very powerful atmosphere full of a wonders. Everyone cares about each other, supports and helps. It is a very cool team of people who think and care for each other. Each one deals with very hard cases every day, seeing a lot of pain, diseases, hunger, violence, and other catastrophic issues that Kenyans face. That is why, some days, you hear the stories that upset you so deeply and make you feel so small and useless, that you are full of fears, very heavy thoughts and broken heart. It is not easy for emotional people who come for a short stay. But all the love and happiness you get in return overlaps everything.

Did you face any difficulties to adapt?

 

My biggest fear was connected with cultural differences. It was my first time in Africa and I had no idea about the traditions, mentality and perception of local people. We were lucky to have great hosts, the couple who run the art classes. They made our adaptation as safe and comfortable as possible, shared all the tips and gave advice. Regarding living at the Mission, to join a community of new people is always challenging for me, especially when you are new in something, and people are experienced professionals. The best part was that missionaries accepted us as family members, so the adaptation was easier than I could imagine.

 

What are you taking with you from that experience?

 

Heart full of love and happiness. Aspiration to make “miracles” with little actions. Admiration for the beauty and talents of Dunga people. Sponsored child. New friends. Dreams to come back soon and see all these people again.

Do you plan to go back?

 

Definitely, yes. With new ideas, projects and opportunities.

 

kenhelp.org. @missiasodeistviia  @kristina_okan